Thursday, November 02, 2006

Guest Posting From Rabbi Dovid Sears - What Did Moshe Rabbeinu See in the 'Erev Rav?

(Image from Raziel HaMalach - Vilna, 1875)

"Lekh reyd, ki shiches 'amkha -- Go down, for your people has acted corruptly!" Hashem commands Moshe Rabbeinu when the 'Erev Rav (Mixed Multitude) perpetrated the sin of the Golden Calf.

The ARI zal sees in Hashem's words a special connection between Moshe Rabbeinu and the 'Erev Rav: they contained some of his "holy sparks," which he knew he had to elevate (see Rabbi Chaim Vital, Likkutei HaSHaS). But what was so special about those "sparks" that Moshe took such an enormous risk at this spiritual high point in our history -- which, if not for the sin of the Golden Calf, would have become the Ge'ulah Sheleimah /Final Redemption?

The Zohar has much to say about the nature of the 'Erev Rav, identifying it with the "zuhamas ha-nachash," the corruption of the Snake in the Garden of Eden, which it transmitted to Chavah (Zohar I, 28b). It also predicts that in the period before the advent of the Moshiach, the souls of the 'Erev Rav will return as false leaders of the Jewish people, to our great misfortune (Zohar I, 25a). (Maybe this is one of the reasons why Rabbi Nachman warns us so adamantly about the danger of false leaders, even in the religious community.) In general, the Zohar attributes most of the troubles of our long and bitter exile to the influence of the souls of the 'Erev Rav in every generation.

So again, we can't help but wonder: why did Moshe Rabbeinu take the risk of bringing them into the fold?

Rav Moshe Cordovero (RaMaK) answers this question in a surprising way. He explains that the Torah was given in seventy languages so that the 'Erev Rav, who spoke these seventy languages, would in turn purify the seventy original nations of the world. Thus, the future prophecy would be fulfilled "And I will convert the nations to a pure speech, by which they shall all call upon the Name of Hashem..." (Zephaniah 3:9). If the Jewish people had been on a high enough level of consciousness, says the RaMaK, the 'Erev Rav would have been transformed from klippah to kedushah, from evil to good, and become the leaders of all humanity in a perfected world. The Jewish people would have attained their lofty destiny in Eretz Yisrael, while the 'Erev Rav would have served as leaders in all of the surrounding lands, and all humanity would have recognized and served Hashem in brotherhood and harmony (Ohr Yakar on Zohar, Vayakhel).

Alas, we were not yet worthy of all this, and the entire spiritual edifice that Moshe Rabbeinu had built came tumbling down like a house of cards. We lost our lofty madreigah and the "crowns" we had received at Mount Sinai, while the souls of the 'Erev Rav remained sunken in tumah, and continued to thwart Klal Yisrael at every turn throughout history.

But Moshe Rabbeinu's hope was not a total loss. The final birur of the 'Erev Rav is taking place in these cataclysmic times, as the evil of the nations speeds toward inevitable destruction, and the good of the nations comes to the aid of the Jewish people, in fulfillment of the prophecy, "Ten men from each language of the nations shall take hold of the corner of the garment of a Jewish man, saying 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that Hashem is with you..." (Zechariah 8:23) (Ohr Yakar, Raya Mehemna, Shaar II, 25:15).

Then we will be zocheh to truly worthy leadership, as it states "And your eyes shall behold your teacher!" (Yeshaya 30:20).

A Simple Jew asks:

In recent times, I have heard people who disagree with the policies and actions of the Israeli government label certain Knesset members as belonging to the Eirev Rav. While according to the reference in the Zohar that you quoted above this may be the case, how are we to know for sure?

In his Mishneh Torah, Issurei Bi'ah 19:17, the Rambam wrote: "When a person always slurs the lineage of others, casting aspersions on the ancestry of families or individuals, claiming that they are mamzerim, we are suspicious that he himself is a mamzer." Similarly, if we cast aspersions and claim that a Knesset member's lineage descends from the Eirev Rav aren't we calling into question our own lineage?

Rabbi Dovid Sears answers:

Just like we can't render halakhic rulings straight out of the Gemara, we also can't figure out kabbalistic mysteries such as which neshamos are from the 'Erev Rav and which aren't straight out of the Zohar. Kabbalistic thinkers in certain anti-Zionist communities might bring numerous statements of the Zohar to support this idea -- but Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish Chassidim generally did not take this approach (nor did Rav Kook and his school of thought, needless to say).

Many authorities feel that most of us today are in the category of "tinuk she-nishba," and that the mumar le-hachis of earlier generations (whom the Zohar explicitly identifies with the 'Erev Rav) was a different breed than the secular Jew of Tel Aviv or Wesport, Conn.

I must admit that I'm inclined to think that Jewish political leaders who actively make war against religious Jews and try to expunge every last vestige of Yiddishkeit in Eretz Yisrael are very likely among those infamous neshamos of the 'Erev Rav.

But then again, I have read that Rav Chaim Sonnenfeld chastised one of his talmidim for saying "yemach shemo" after mentioning the virulently anti-religious Ben Yehudah's name, and that Rav Zvi Yehudah Kook tried to be mekarev Shulamit Aloni!

The bottom line is that it is our first responsibility to eradicate the klippah of the 'Erev Rav and the zuhamas ha-nachash within ourselves, by purging ourselves of arrogance, materialism, coarse sensuality, and disrespect for tzaddikim and Jews who are more religious than we are. Maybe if we ever succeed in draining the existential swamp that covers up the fugitive spark of Divinity within us, we will then be able to recognize "who's who" in the World of Souls!

9 Comments:

At November 2, 2006 at 10:58:00 AM EST, Anonymous Breslever from London said...

This question has been on my mind for several years. However last night I read LM 1.56 "Uv'yom habikkurim" which seems to shed light on this question, although it brings me to another question.

Rabbenu seems to say towards the end that although its good to judge even a rosho l'chaf z'chus - not everyone can. Sometimes the rishus is at such a level of hastoro, that it would take a grosse tzaddik to be able to bring him back to Hashem (via a machlokes l'shem shomayim, I think).

My question then is, in "direct" kiruv or even just machshovo (dan lchaf zchus), how do we know when to "give up" because "better not to say something that wont be heard" etc. or carry on? Maybe we have reached a position (malchus) to bring that yid back? On other hand, if we dont know who we really are what we can achieve - malchus b'iskasyia/ b'isgaliya - and we dont also know who far our secular friend is from Hashem, then how can we ever know who to be mkarev or try to dan lchaf zchus??

 
At November 2, 2006 at 11:26:00 AM EST, Blogger ilan said...

Kabbalistic thinkers in certain anti-Zionist communities might bring numerous statements of the Zohar to support this idea -- but Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish Chassidim generally did not take this approach (nor did Rav Kook and his school of thought, needless to say).

I really don't agree. Even polisher or chassidm from ukrania are anti zionist. Some sefaradim too. Toratenu Hakedosha is against the apikorosut.

"Many authorities feel that most of us today are in the category of "tinuk she-nishba," "

Many ??? The Lubavitcher and...?

In the ukta demeshija the power of the satan against the emuna is stronger than ever.

"and that Rav Zvi Yehudah Kook tried to be mekarev Shulamit Aloni!"

Rabenu zal (Rabbi Nachman miBreslev) said that just the tzadik haemet can mekarev the apikorosim how fell down on the chochmos chitzoniot (the 3 apikorosim of uman for example, he himself mekarev, bucause a simple Yid can't do this job, just the tzadik haemet! If a Yid try to mekarev an apikoros maybe he fell down on chochmos too.

 
At November 2, 2006 at 4:05:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

It is said explicitly in Likutey Moharan (in "Heychal haKoydesh"), that there are those who should be avoided! (I.e. it is wrong to mekareyv them) because it will not bring any benefit and only the opposite. It is most probably refers to eirev rav. Also look about this subject in the kuntreys "Machniya zeydim" from the Tcheriner Rov ztz"l. This subject is far from being so simple, as to say that Russian/Ukranian/Polish chasidim are for kiruv directed towards eyrev rav or something the like.

Also look about it in famous mayse about melamed-koyfer in "Sipurey Chabad", where there are brought pretty strong words about this subject.

 
At November 2, 2006 at 4:09:00 PM EST, Anonymous Smashed Hat said...

Breslover From London:

I have the same questions. But one thing seems clear: in Torah Resh-Pey-Beis (Azamra), the Rebbe is speaking about a limud zechus toward the rasha gamur in thought, not in direct interaction. And the result of this limud zechus is that the rasha spontaneously feels an arousal to do teshuvah. Of course, he still has free will. But now at least he has a "fighting chance!"

Another model for the Rebbe's thoughts about kiruv is the ma'aseh of the Baal Tefilah, whose more advanced disciples emulate him by going into the yishuv to engage the lost neshamos of the Medinah Shel Ashirus in conversation in order to bring them back. True, their abilities are limited, and in the end the Baal Tefillah must finish the job himself. But the talmidim definitely play a role in this.

In the Halachah on this story (don't have it in front of me right now), Reb Noson states hat not only can the tzaddik emes engage in this work, but also "kol ha-nilvim alav," meaning all those who are truly attached to him. This seems to be the spiritual barometer of who is equipped to engage in kiruv rechokim.

 
At November 2, 2006 at 4:29:00 PM EST, Anonymous Dovid Sears said...

Not much time to respond at the moment. But I would like to mention that the practical side of this issue falls into the category of "ma'aseh rav": what did our great teachers do?

Reb Avraham Sternhartz used to travel to the secular kibbutzim to reach out to the alienated youth of his day, and his talmid Reb Gedaliah was legendary for his kiruv efforts. Rav Chaim Sonnenfeld travelled to the kibbutzim for kiruv purposes, too, sometimes together with Rav Kook.

Yet their are definite dangers here, and one must know what he is up to.

Bottom line: ask your mashpia!

 
At November 2, 2006 at 4:48:00 PM EST, Anonymous Dovid Sears said...

PS: A Yid -- PLEASE! I never said that any Chassidim advocate kiruv for the Erev Rav!!!

How could you even think such a thing?

I said that these Chassidim tended to be less anti-Zionist; and maybe my choice of words was poor.

I did not mean that they were "OK" with Zionism, particularly secular Zionism which tended to be anti-religious; but that their posture was not so combative. Some were even religious Zionists, or sympathetic to religious Zionism, esp. the "Poilisher."

I have been told by some of the "old-timers" in the Breslev Shtibel in Borough Park that this was true of most of the Polish and Ukrainian-Russian Breslevers of the previous generation.

 
At November 2, 2006 at 5:40:00 PM EST, Anonymous A Yid said...

Dovid Sears: What I meant, that either extreme is incorrect. To say that all yidn alienated from Yiddishkayt are eyrev rav (some in Satmar etc. tend to think like that) is obviously wrong. But to say that they all are tinokoys shenishbu who don't apprehend what they are doing is wrong as well. It's enough to research what some reshoim did, to have a very small doubt that they are either eirev rav or something the like. Especially when those deeds caused deaths of multiple yidn or their shmad, etc.

I think you meant that Russian/Poylishe are not extreme like others to call every one separated form Yiddishkayt eyrev rav. This I agree with. But the other extreme (to "whitewash" the evil of really horrible reshoim) is mizrochi, not Russian/Poylishe Chasidus.

 
At November 2, 2006 at 7:40:00 PM EST, Anonymous Neshama said...

I would like to contribute my thoughts, with a caveat that I am aware of my limitations compared to the learning that most men have. That acknowledged,

1.1 "He (RaMaK) explains that the Torah was given in seventy languages so that the 'Erev Rav, who spoke these seventy languages, would in turn purify the seventy original nations of the world."

This is the first time I have heard about the Erev Rav of Moshe Rabbeinu's time, that they: SPOKE THESE SEVENTY LANGUAGES? I would like to know the source for this (not just that the RaMaK said it)? Were all these people living in Mitzrayim? How did they get there? What was their attraction to Moshe Rabbeinu?

2.1 "The bottom line is that it is our first responsibility to eradicate the klippah of the 'Erev Rav and the zuhamas ha-nachash within ourselves, by purging ourselves of arrogance, materialism, coarse sensuality, and disrespect for tzaddikim and Jews "

I don't think this is spiritually correct. I think the Erev Rav's essence (their root neshoma) is against the Holiness that Hashem wants in this world. I see it being expressed not as a specific group, but as a way of thinking found in anyone (secular, rabbi, et al.) that influences and negates the thoughts, actions, deeds, etc. of truly spiritual/religious Jews. Their goal is to stop the Moshiach and the redemption (which I think I read in material on the Leshem [regarding the zuhama from Adam] and the Zohar). It is an effort that is much deeper and mysterious than we can imagine.

True, we have to work on our own neshomas, to purify them of the negative (middos), but each midda we possess has a positive strength that needs to be awakened. These middos are gifts of Hashem in order to accomplish our mission on this earth. This zuhama will be removed when we are purified by Hashem in the process of restoring our neshomas to the level of Adam HaRishon before the fall. This does not mean all neshomas survive. We are composite neshomas.

I believe the Erev Rav were not worthy then and are not worthy now.

 
At November 9, 2006 at 11:09:00 PM EST, Blogger Sechel said...

It seems to me that it may help your interaction with the anti-religious to draw from the advice of the Besht on raising up stray thoughts that come during prayer (from Ben Porat Yosef 50:2-3, 53:4):

"If you wonder, 'How shall I know which thought to push away and which to bring close and elevate?' You should contemplate whether if at the time that the stray thought came to you, the way to fix and elevate it also immediately arose in your mind; then you will know that it should be brought close and elevated. If the way to fix it did not immediately arise in your mind, then [this stray thought] came from the Sitra Achra to destroy your prayer and to confuse your thoughts." (...and one should not attempt to elevate it.)

You could apply that test in your interactions with the anti-religious. If you perceive in their words and their behavior toward you some "handle" with which to pull them close and elevate them, then you should know that is truly why they have come to you. It's my experience that many who appear outwardly anti-religious are really implicitly asking to be brought close and elevated; that is the inner reason why they are interacting with you in the first place. The Besht stated this about stray thoughts also (Toldot Yaakov Yosef, Vayakhel 75:3): "I heard in the name of my wondrous teacher regarding the stray thoughts that come to a person in the midst of their prayer, that they are in the secret of the Shevirah and the 288 sparks that a person must sift each day. They come to be rectified and elevated."

In practical terms, one who is approaching you with outwardly anti-religious posturing may make some kind of statement in which is implicitly contained their request to be elevated. In a person's questions are usually contained, implicitly, the answers they seek.

Above all, have courage and do not be afraid.

 

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